KARACHI: A Shakespearean character describes the quality of mercy as twice blest: “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” That’s the theme of the play Lorelei performed and directed by Nimra Bucha at the Arts Council on Thursday.
Written by Tom Wright, the play, which is told in the form of narration and not monologue or soliloquy, is based on the story of Lorelei Guillory, whose six-year-old son Jeremy was murdered by a paedophile, Ricky Langley, in 1992. As the trial went on, and by a strange turn of events, Lorelei did something which took many practitioners of law by surprise: she questioned the psychological health of the killer at the time of murder. This implies she did not let her personal anguish cloud her judgement of the horrible episode seen from a humanistic point of view. The approach, however, could be debated.
The play has a plain, but not simple, setting. As the curtains are drawn, Lorelei (Nimra Bucha) is seen sitting in a sofa introducing herself (to the audience). She contemplates her name and its meaning. She is gentle in her narration having a benign tone that she keeps throughout the 50-odd minutes of the play, save for a certain period where she is seen talking about Langley behind bars. Once done with her name, she talks about her child, Jeremy. As is expected of any mother, there’s love and affection in her voice when she mentions him. It does not take her long to touch upon his disappearance, and murder.
Some 15 minutes into the play, and Lorelei gets up. She is now fixated on Langley. She says he is not a normal human being. There’s history that needs to be understood — history of a disturbed man. Paedophilia is a disease, she argues. The killer had led a troubled life. He himself was treated badly by men. And from then on, Lorelei builds a case against the death penalty. The word “compassion” is uttered. She knows that it’s not easy to make people comprehend how a mother whose child was brutally killed can act like a forgiving person. Whether she succeeds in her endeavour is up to the audience to decide.
Lorelei is a sensitive play, and should be watched with the same mindset. Nimra is a fantastic actor, make no mistake. And there was ample evidence of it on Thursday, not that she needs that. But one felt that the actress in Nimra was betrayed by the director Nimra. She seemed to be a trifle weighed down by the duality of her job. There were moments where she could have modulated her voice in saying certain lines and held the situation (and audience) by the scruff of its neck. For example, when she admits that she “wanted to kill him”, or when she speaks about strangulation and suffocation of the child. Perhaps she wanted to create the sombre effect more through ambience than anything else, such as the soft lighting which complimented the otherwise dark set.
Lorelei will be performed in Urdu by Sania Saeed on Dec 18.
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2015